Nightly News | November 02, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We are back now and we have tonight's Education Nation report. Last night on the broadcast we told you about a new report card that showed America 's students continue to struggle in terms of both math and reading. Well, tonight we go to the other side of the world , Shanghai , a city that stunned the world when students there took international exams for the first time ever and outscored every other school system on the planet. Question is, how did that happen? And what can American schools learn from what Shanghai is doing? Our chief education correspondent, Rehema Ellis , went to Shanghai to find out. She's here with us in our New York studios tonight. Rehema :
REHEMA ELLIS reporting: Brian , they're working very hard in the schools in Shanghai . And the one thing that struck me during my visit to China is that kids there love learning, and in many ways their success in school is a direct consequence of a whole culture that really values education .
ELLIS: From the moment the teacher enters the classroom...
ELLIS: ... Shanghai students, rooted in tradition, are ready to learn. The 900 kids at Shanghai Yucai High School have nine hour school days with just a few breaks for workouts and timeouts for eye massages to relieve stress. Kids study on weekends and during summer and winter breaks. Why do you want to study so much?
Unidentified Student #1: Because I want to have a better future and do some contribution to our society.
ELLIS: Everything is geared toward the all important college entrance exams .
Mr. JIANG XUEJIN (Peking University High School): It's a test oriented education system , which means that students are taught from a very early age how to beat tests.
ELLIS: On international exams, Shanghai scored number one across the board. American students ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.
Unidentified Teacher: What of you would like to be a business person one day, right?
ELLIS: Teachers in Shanghai are among the highest paid educators nationwide. Shanghai is a booming city of 23 million people, but some downplay the academic success here, saying it doesn't represent education in China as a whole. This is what learning is like in most of the nation . Resources are scarce. The result, just 24 percent of rural kids go to college vs. 80 percent in Shanghai and 64 percent in the United States . Ironically, as the world studies Shanghai 's success, China is now focusing on its academic weaknesses.
Mr. JIANG: In terms of management, artistic, creative talent, China 's tremendously lacking. And that's going to hamper China 's ability -- the economy to grow and to compete globally, especially with the United States .
Unidentified Student #2: Maybe I'm going to be a musician or some kind of -- this is my dream.
ELLIS: Shanghai students, the world's best test takers, are now starting to dream of being so much more. For all the hours Chinese students spend in school, that nation has yet to produce a Steve Jobs , a Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates . But now China is trying to open the door to that kind of academic creativity, which America has been known for. And experts say it's only a matter of time , Brian , until China gets there.
WILLIAMS: Those high school students speaking to you in perfect English may be all we need to know.
ELLIS: Perfect English. Absolutely.
WILLIAMS: Rehema Ellis , thank you. Great